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Sports Then and Now

Dick Groat: Two Sport Superstar

Posted on September 02, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Dick Groat

The September Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a two sport collegiate standout who eventually settled on baseball and helped lead two teams to World Series titles.

As a college standout at Duke University, Dick Groat was a two-time All-American in baseball and basketball and was the collegiate Player of the Year in basketball as a senior in 1952 while averaging 25.2 points per game. His number was retired by Duke following the completion of his basketball career.

Groat was the third player drafted in the 1952 NBA Draft by the Fort Wayne Pistons. He was also pursued by numerous baseball teams and the Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania native eventually signed with his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bypassing the minor leagues, the five-foot-11-inch Groat moved immediately into the lineup at shortstop for Pittsburgh and in 95 games hit .284 with 39 runs scored.

Groat averaged 25 points per game as a senior at Duke and was the third pick in the 1952 NBA draft.

He then joined the Pistons and in 26 games scored 11.9 points per contest.

His sports career was delayed by military service in 1953 and 1954 and he eventually focused his full-time attention on baseball.

Though Pittsburgh was not a contender during his early years, Groat was developing into a solid big leaguer. By the 1957 season he was emerging as one of the top shortstops in the league and finished fifth in the NL with a .315 batting average.

In 1960 the Pirates made an improbable run to the National League Pennant and Groat was a key catalyst. He led the NL with a .325 batting average while scoring 85 runs and driving home 50 runs. He earned All-Star honors for the second straight year and was named the NL MVP.

A broken wrist late in the 1960 season caused him to miss much of the final month of the campaign, but the Pirates still managed to win the NL Pennant for the first time since 1927.

In the World Series, he drove home the first run for the Pirates and then scored the go-ahead run as Pittsburgh won the opening game 6-4. Though he hit only .214 in the series, he had an RBI and scored a run in the five-run eighth inning that gave the Pirates a brief 9-7 lead.

Of course New York tied the game in the top of the ninth before Bill Mazeroski blasted the game-winning home run to give Pittsburgh their first World Series title since 1925.

Groat remained with the Pirates until 1963 when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1963 he eclipsed 200 hits for the only time in his career and hit .319 with a career-high 73 RBI. He finished second in the MVP voting.

The following season, Groat hit .292 as the Cardinals won the NL Pennant for the first time since 1946. Playing in another dramatic seven game World Series against the Yankees, Groat hit only .192, but did have a couple important plays. He retired Mickey Mantle with a “hidden ball trick” in game four and had an RBI in the decisive seventh game as St. Louis won 7-5.

After hitting .254 during the 1965 season, Groat was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies where he hit .260 with 53 RBI. After struggling early in the 1966 campaign, he was sent to the San Francisco Giants where he appeared in 34 games.

He completed his career with a .286 career average, 2,138 hits, 352 doubles, 39 home runs and 707 RBI. Known for putting the ball in play, Groat had 490 career walks and 512 career strikeouts in 8,179 career plate appearances.

Groat is a member of both the college baseball and college basketball Hall of Fames.

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